Press Conference with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres

Jerusalem, September 3, 2001

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres: We have instructed our delegation in Durban to come back home. We regret very much the very bizarre show in Durban. An important convention that was supposed to defend human rights became a source of hatred, a show of unfounded accusation, a reverse to every responsibility on the international arena.

We don’t feel defeated. We feel peace was defeated. We don’t feel as though Israel was accused. I think the accusers are the ones to be blamed.

In 53 years since the establishment of Israel, we were attacked five times with an attempt to overpower us and to bring an end to the State of Israel. We stand alone, outnumbered, outgunned, and we defended our lives. We won all the wars, we won a lot of territories. We gave back the territories, the water, the oil to Egypt. We gave back the land, the water to Jordan. We have withdrawn unilaterally from Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425. We offered to the Syrians an exchange of land for peace.

We have offered the Palestinians something that no Arab country did before us, because the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were under Arab control. We offered them an independent state. We offered them to withdraw from most of the territories. We offered them a position in Jerusalem. They have rejected it. Instead, there was the intifada, and even today there were four bombs in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

I want to thank the United States of America that took an extremely courageous position in favor to make the world look more responsible, more balanced, more truthful. I think the United States has saved the honor of our world, of our time. I want to express my thanks to the President of the US, to the Secretary of State Mr. Colin Powell, for their unhesitating leadership in favor of a better world. I want also to express my thanks to 43 countries that took a clear position against this unbelievable attempt to smear Israel with false colors – among them, in addition to the United States: the Republic of Russia, India, the members of the European Union, the countries of East Europe, most of the countries in Latin America, many countries in Africa.

We know there are two leagues which began leagues of hatred to Israel – the Arab League, which calls for belligerency, for boycott, for severing relations, for bringing an end to the peaceful efforts; and the Moslem League. We know that we don’t stand a chance to explain our position and to express our hopes. But I believe that one bloc that usually voted against us, the bloc of nonaligned nations, was this time was broken into pieces. Many of its most important members voted against the Arab proposals, and I am not surprised that some of them remained as old-fashioned and as prejudiced as they used to be in the past.

We shall be in the camp of freedom, we shall remain in the camp of peace. We have not lost heart, in spite of all the difficulties, and we do believe the future is with a world that is responsible, truthful and free, and looks for relationships without hatred, without prejudice and without killing.

In response to questions, the Foreign Minister added:

There was not a vote. The 43 countries that I have mentioned expressed themselves against the proposal. Maybe if it would come to a vote, there would be more countries that would vote against the Arab proposal.

We felt that we have to try and see if there is a chance for returning to the proper direction. That was also the attempt of the United States. There was an attempt by the Norwegian delegation to introduce a different language, but it has failed. We would feel irresponsible if we wouldn’t try to introduce an alternative to this extremely prejudiced, unfounded resolution which made, in my judgment, a laughing stock of this conference. If we are talking about a conference of human rights, the first human right is to remain alive. That is very important for Israel, because there is an attempt to kill us, destroy us. And if you don’t have the right to remain alive, all the other rights are irrelevant.  
 Press Conference with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres-3-Sep-2001
 Press Conference with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres-3-Sep-2001
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance – Israeli fact sheets